Top 10 Bounce Back Candidates for the 2019/20 NHL Season

Which players in line for a bounce back season?

Every season there is always a couple great players that have a bad season where you go, “What Happened??” (Looks at the career of Scott Gomez and cringes).

Now sometimes it is because of injury, some because of going to a new team and some just get old. Point is these players can’t always have perfect seasons unless you’re Nicklas Lidstrom and your nickname is the “Perfect Human.” So I am here today to give these players and you some optimism for some players that I think can have a bounce-back season!

For this list, I won’t be including Rookies, because they have just one season on record, or players over 35 because of the likelihood they bounce back is very low. Also will not include goalers because guessing what goalie is going to be “good and bad” from season to season is like trying to find Brad Marchand‘s tears on the ice after game 7. (Too soon?) Anyway let’s get into it

10. Ondrej Palat (28 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 64 Games Played, 8 Goals, 26 Assists, 34 points, +4

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Remember the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015 when they had that cute triplet line of Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat? It looked like all three would be the new cornerstones of the team. Since then the Lightning has seen Kucherov become a perennial candidate for the Art Ross Trophy, Johnson hasn’t had over 50 points since that 2015 season and Ondrej Palat just hasn’t been healthy. Over the last 3 seasons Palat has only played 195 possible games out of 246 and prior to that hasn’t played a”full season” since the 16/17 season when he only missed 7 games. I am choosing him as a bounce-back candidate because the Lightning are going to need him to step up with the possible shedding of players following the rapture that was the sweep in this year’s playoffs and the likelihood of Brayden Point sitting out looming because of a contract dispute. Palat will get every chance on Tampa to get back over 60 points only if he stays healthy.

9. Derick Brassard (31 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 70 Games played, 14 G, 9 Assists, 23 Points, -19

When you get traded 2 times during one season usually that isn’t a good sign. A decent 3rd/ 2nd line center that can get you 40-50 points regularly Brassard had a rough time last year getting traded twice from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Florida Panthers after only getting 15 points up to the trade, then finished his season with the Colorado Avalanche with a combined 8 points during his time with the Panthers and the Avs’. So safe to say he had a rough year. As a UFA this summer he could end up being a great addition for a team looking for center depth and could surprise a lot of people after what was one of the worst seasons of his career.

8. Ryan Getzlaf (34 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 67 Games Played, 14 Goals, 34 Assists, 48 Points, -19

With only playing 67 games and 56 the season prior, combined with the team around him eroding quickly, the Anaheim Ducks Captain has been under some tough times. Being very close to my age cut off for players it made choosing Getzlaf a somewhat difficult choice but seeing now that he has a new head coach and a whole summer for him and his teammates to get healthy (The Ducks only had one player play the full 82 games last season) this could be a season that sees not only Getzlaf get high point totals but the Ducks team as a whole could rebound.

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7. Rickard Rakell (26 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 69 Games Played, 18 Goals, 25 Assists, 43 Points, -13

This is the only time I will be putting two players from the same team on this but it had to be said. As one of my favorite players in the NHL, watching Rakell struggle with injuries and just look tired last season sucked for me as a fan. Maybe it was the factor a lot more stress was put on him with Getzlaf and Perry being out for major stretches of the season or even him dealing with his own injuries it just didn’t look like the Rakell I was used to seeing the last couple seasons and I believe with a strong healthy season out of him and his teammates he will be back over 60 points next season.

6. Alexander Wennberg (24 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 75 Games Played, 2 Goals, 23 Assists, 25 Points, -1

Prior to the 2017/18 season, it looked like Wennberg was going to be a core member of the up and coming Jackets core having come off of 59 point season and had just signed a 6 year, 29 Million Dollar deal. This deal looked like a steal because he was going to get 60-70 points the rest of this contract and was going to be the 1st line center that they needed due to them trading Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones. Fast forward 2 seasons, 141 games, healthy scratches and only 60 points combined later it looks like a contract the Jackets want to get rid of. I believe that next season is a make or break season for Wennberg with the Jackets not signing Matt Duchene the 2nd line Center position is his to take. If he continues to struggle though he will find himself on another team pretty quick.

5. Max Pacioretty (30 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 66 Games Played, 22 Goals, 18 Assists, 40 Points, -13

How quickly people forget a player’s struggles if they have a great playoff. During the playoffs having only played 7 games he scored 5 goals and 6 assists for 11 points and all was forgiven. I was one of those people until I looked at his point outputs the last 2 seasons. During his last season with the Montreal Canadiens, he had only 17 goals along with 37 points (a full 30 point drop from the season prior) and had only played 64 games. He was then traded to Vegas the following summer and was promptly signed to a 4 year 28 Million dollar (7 Mil Average) contract not even playing a game yet with the team. This season he got over 20 goals again but had only 40 points and was injured. He started to get going later on in the season having gotten used to his linemates (Was often Paul Stastny who was also injured)  and it looked good and thus lead up to his playoff performance. Now, this season lets see if he can put it all together and get back to his 35-40 goal self having had a full season in a new system and hopefully better injury luck.

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4. Drew Doughty (29 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 82 Games Played, 8 Goals, 37 Assists, 45 Points, -34

Bet you thought I wasn’t going to do any defensemen! For most defenders, this stat line wouldn’t be terrible (Besides the +/-) but for Drew Doughty who is considered one of the best of his kind, this was not a great year for him or the Kings. Having only been a minus player twice in his career this -34 stat sticks out. The point totals were there but the play all around seemed to lack. For Doughty, it isn’t like he just forgot how to play hockey but his level of play was not of that of his Norris Caliber of a couple year ago. When Doughty plays like one of the best D’s in the league the Kings do well. And while it may be a long shot for the Kings to get back into playoff contention a Bounce back year from Doughty will bring them that much closer.

3. Jordan Eberle (29 y/o)

Season Stats 2018/19 – 78 Games Played, 19 Goals, 18 Assists, 37 Points, -6

If you’re Canadian you’ll remember Jordan Eberle’s run in the world Juniors 2009 where he was an absolute monster. (Go look up his highlights from then you won’t be disappointed) If you’re anybody else then you will remember him being a cog of a very broken Edmonton Oilers team that traded him after one bad playoff performance. Which was his only playoff experience considering the team hadn’t made the postseason since 2006. Flash forward to now and you have a player who just signed a 5-year deal after having a great playoff. Eberle can get you 25-30 goals and 50-60 points. Last season didn’t go well for him and I expect after signing a nice deal, having a great playoff (9 Points in 8 games) and having gotten used to playing under Barry Trots, Ebs’ will be back as one of the leading scorers on this New York Islanders squad.

2. William Nylander (23 y/o)

2018/19 Season Stats – 54 Games Played, 7 Goals, 20 Assists, 27 Points, -4

The most hated, evil Villain Toronto has ever seen. As a Toronto Maple Leafs fan who is on Twitter, I can say for certain that if you like the Leafs and you’re on Twitter you either A.) Hate Nylander and want him off the team B.) Really LOVE Nylander and will defend him till death. There is no middle ground on Twitter. In real life, I believe in Willy and think that having a summer of training with the Leafs, a training camp and preseason with the Leafs and starting the Season with…. the…. LEAFS…. will do him better than chilling in Switzerland wondering if he getting a contract till December and not playing or practicing with NHLers.

1. Jaden Schwartz (26 y/o)

2018/19 Season Stats – 69 Games played, 11 Goals, 25 assists, 36 points, -6

So you see those 11 goals he scored in 69 games up there? Yea he scored 12 in the playoffs on his way to winning the Stanley Cup and nobody says one thing about the season he had. I don’t blame them. When you’re an integral part of a team that won a Cup you don’t talk about the horrible season he had but heading into these playoffs that were the question. Prior to this season, you could have guaranteed that Schwartz would give you 55-60 points a season when healthy. During the 2017/18 season prior to getting hurt, he was on pace for a career year in points with 59 in 62 games and there was no reason to think he wouldn’t break it this season. In saying that all the Blues had very bad seasons prior to the beginning of January to it is safe to say with a Stanley Cup ring on his finger and a reinvigorated sense of accomplishment, Schwartz is one the main guys I  believe will have a huge comeback season.




Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: 3 Off-Season Moves That Can Change The Franchise

The Tampa Bay Lightning might look a tad different next season.

After getting swept in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets and reports are that Captain Steven Stamkos is at wit’s end with head coach Jon Cooper, one has to think that changes have to be made to the bolts’ roster. Here are 3 of the potential moves (or non-moves) they could do to give a shake-up to a roster that seemingly had no weaknesses.

Trading the Captain – Steven Stamkos moving on

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After his team’s loss on Tuesday, a reporter asked the captain to assess the Lightning’s season. Stamkos responded by saying “If you don’t accomplish the goal of winning it all, it’s a failure.” (Quote From The Washington Post, see hyperlink)

In 70 playoff games, Stamkos has 53 points. While that isn’t terrible, you would expect more from the top center and leader on a team that has been to a couple of conference finals and Stanley Cup final appearance in the last 4 years. In his 12 career game 6 and 7s, he has a total of 6 points. All 6 of those points are in game 6’s. When it comes to leading his team on the scoreboard, Stamkos has not done that in the time he has been on this team.

Let’s not forget that Tampa hasn’t been afraid of shifting leadership in the past (See Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier) so a move for Stamkos could technically happen as soon as this summer. The only small issue is that Stamkos has No-Movement-Clause and would need to waive it in order for Julien BriseBois to trade him.

Fire Jon Cooper?

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Jon Cooper could be the NHL’s version of Dwane Casey (current Detroit Pistons head coach, former Toronto Raptors head coach) this year by winning coach of the year and also be fired in the same season.

Having just signed a multi-year deal with the team, this situation seems very unlikely. But, in today’s NHL where it’s easier to replace a coach than players, it could still happen.

Cooper sports a 305-159-44 record as the Lightning’s head coach and has led the team to five playoff appearances, including three Eastern Conference Finals, and a Stanley Cup Final in 2015. With his 508 games behind the bench, he is already the winningest coach in Lightning history and the second-longest tenured Lightning coach behind John Tortorella with his 535 games.

Do Nothing – AKA the boring option

The Lightning are in one of the weirdest positions any team in the 30 years has been in.

Finishing 2019 with a 62-16-4 record, the Lightning tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most wins in a season. With 128 points, the Bolts’, fell just short of 1 huge benchmark — the record 132 points achieved by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens (60-8-12), who were regarded as one of the best, if not the best, hockey teams ever.

Tampa Bay finished with 12 more wins, and 21 more points, than the next closest team, the Calgary Flames. The Lightning did not lose more than two consecutive games all season.

They had a 128 point scorer in Nikita Kucherov, a Vezina trophy candidate in Andrei Vasilevskiy and a Norris Trophy winner in Victor Hedman. Sometimes staying pat and trusting the process can lead to a championship. This was the season that the Lightning were staying pat for and it did not work. Staying pat now after this colossal failure can lead this team to blow up internally. If it isn’t happening already.

Keep An Eye On Tampa This Off-Season

As stated before, this is a great team. This offseason will be the most important one in the Lightning’s history. If you’re this team are you staying patient and going for another run with this team? You need to make cap space for Brayden Point‘s looming contract but who are you moving out to make that space? There were many reasons to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning this season and there may be more reasons to watch them this offseason.

Add me on Twitter/Instagram: @NikofromtheTO

stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals


New York Islanders

New York Islanders: Have The Wheels Fallen Off?

After getting shutout and outscored 9-0 in their last two games, questions that have been masked up to this point are coming up for air as the New York Islanders recent slump highlight the cracks in this team.

Mathew Barzal

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Mathew Barzal, last years Calder Trophy winner and teams 1st line center, hasn’t quite taken the next step the Islanders have hoped he would have. After having 38 points through his first 40 games of the season, Barzal seemed to have “Hit the Wall” when the going got tough. In his last 34 games, he has had only 20 points and recently only saw 14 minutes of ice time (Season Low) in this latest loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

While having 58 points on a team that is headed to the playoffs one can’t help but wonder whether heading into the playoffs with a young center that has seemed to have hit his limit for the season is a good idea. This is not a knock on Barzal but more of has the expectations of being one of the best in the league gotten to him. Considering he has never faced this type of adversity in his young career it will be interesting to see how or if he pulls out of this before taking his team to the playoffs for the first time.

Jordan Eberle

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Can anybody explain what happened to Jordan Eberle? Anybody? No? I didn’t think so. After getting traded from the Edmonton Oilers for Ryan Strome this looked like a straight up STEAL for the Isles. 25 goals to go along with 59 points in his first season, Eberle looked like he found a new home after being disowned from Edmonton. This season has been the complete opposite. While battling injuries this season he has managed to play 70 games. While the durability is something to give him props for, he has only 31 points and is looking at the potential of that being his career low. (37 points in 48 games in the lockout-shortened 12-13 season)

With only 1 point in his last 11 games stretching back to the beginning of March, this veteran winger just hasn’t played up to his full potential. Being 29 and a UFA at the end of this season one has to wonder if this is the start of a trend or a blip on the radar in what has been a solid offensive career for Eberle.

Josh Bailey

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In the 2 players I’ve stated so far, both of them have been cold down the stretch run of this season. Josh Bailey is no different. While on pace for his 3rd straight 50+ point season he is in the midst of an 8 game pointless streak and has only 2 points in this month of March. With him being mainly a playmaker on any line he is put on the lack of goal production and his lack of points go hand and hand. With the playoffs being only a couple weeks away the Isles need more out of Bailey. Not to be the game breaker, but need him to do more when the pass is not there.

Not Just The Offense That’s Struggling

The Islanders problems haven’t just been their forward group either as the defense of their entire team has drooped to add gasoline to the fire. Before the trade deadline, the Islanders were averaging 2.39 goals against per game. Since February 25th, the Islanders have allowed 36 goals in 13 games, an average of 2.77 goals against per game. For a team that thrived off of being defense first and generally hard to play against it has all seemed to have gone by the wayside during this slump.

Teams will always go through struggles during an 82 game season. The teams the rise above those pains can head into the postseason with some certainty with their team. The Islanders need to find that certainty or an early exit will be the only thing they will be certain of.

stats from hockey-reference and NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets: Daring or Stupid

The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired top center Matt Duchene, Top 6 forward Ryan Dzingel and depth pickups Keith Kinkaid, Adam McQuaid at the trade deadline.

Instead of shipping off, soon-to-be-not-Blue-Jackets, Artemi Panarin, and Sergei Bobrovsky, it left me with one snarky question/statement. “What if the Blue Jackets made all these moves, AND MISSED THE PLAYOFFS!” Well, that joke may actually come true.

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The ‘Jackets lost their 8th straight game to division rivals Pittsburgh Penguins tonight while also getting shutout 3-0. This loss got me thinking about whether or not this team was daring to make all these moves to go “All in”, or were they just stupid.

What They Gave Up

The Daring: The Blue Jackets gave up 7 draft picks, including 2 1st-rounders, plus 3 prospects and Anthony Duclair to grab 2 impact players and 2 depth pieces to prepare for a long playoff run.

  • The Blue Jackets have made the playoffs 4 times in their 17-year history.
  • They have never been to the 2nd round.
  • They have never been buyers at the Trade Deadline.

In saying all of these things this is what makes the Blue Jackets have the opportunity and the pieces to make one of the longest playoff runs in their history. They just have to get in. Right now the Blue Jackets sit 2 points out of a playoff spot, you clean up the sloppy play and get a little healthy on the backend you get into the playoffs, where anybody has a chance. (2012 LA Kings – 8th spot Stanley Cup Champs, 2017 Nashville Predators 2nd Wildcard Stanley Cup Finalist)

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The Stupid: The Blue Jackets gave up 7 draft picks, including 2 1st-rounders, plus 3 prospects and Anthony Duclair to grab 4 players who are set to go to free agency this summer.

  • The Blue Jackets traded for all these pieces while still being out of the playoff race at the time.
  • The impending departure of Panarin and struggling play of starting goaltender Bobrovsky makes giving up all those futures instead of acquiring them all the riskier.
  • Record since the trade deadline line: 2-3-0

That record is very misleading. In a negative way. Those two wins came in extra innings with a 4-3 overtime win against the Philadelphia Flyers (out of the playoffs) and a 2-1 Shootout win over the New Jersey Devils (One of the worst teams in the NHL). They have also been outscored 21 to 9. They sit with the 4th worst powerplay (15.3 %) and are heading into the toughest part of their schedule.

So far the scoring upgrades they grabbed have not worked out. Duchene in 8 games has 1 goal and 3 points and Dzingel 2 assists in 6 games. Meanwhile, their depth pieces haven’t worked either. McQuaid is a -5 has been a healthy scratch the last couple games and Kinkaid hasn’t made the lineup yet.

Right now it’s looking like the Blue Jackets made a colossal mistake not only mortgaging their future for players who have no obligation to want to resign there, but also not moving two players who are not going to sign there for pieces to build for their future.

I want to give props to ‘Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen for going all in but it just seems he did it a year too late.


NHL Western Conference Playoff picture – WHO GETS IN?

Imagine losing 18 of 20 games and still only being 10 points out of a playoff spot.

You don’t have to when it comes to this years edition of madness that is the NHL Western Conference. 9 Teams separated by 10 points, fighting for two Wild Card spots. In this post we are going to go over who I think will make the playoffs and what position they will finish in the standings. I will go over the Central and the Pacific first before getting into the Wild card.

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Central Division

1st place – Nashville Predators

I think they are going through a mini-slump and will look to add another piece heading into the trade deadline that will push them up in the standings to 1st. They could look to add some defensive depth as past their top 4, they’ve been suspect to defensive breakdowns. NHL teams are always looking for/shopping 5-7 defensemen, and the Predators have the assets to trade.

2nd place – Winnipeg Jets

You can really just switch Nashville and Winnipeg with these first two positions and nobody would blink an eye as they are both (writing this on the 11th of February) 10+ points above anybody below them.  As far as what they could add, check out this post by Brutes Battaglia.

3rd place – St. Louis Blues

They have really come to life haven’t they? From being one of the most disappointing teams to now one of the best comeback stories and riding a hot goalie in Jordan Binnington. I interviewed him when he was with the Chicago Wolves AHL Team, very nice guy. I believe that they have finally started playing like the team they were supposed to be in the beginning.

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Pacific Division

1st place – San Jose Sharks

The Sharks are one consistent goalie away from being just as good as the Tampa Bay Lightning. In saying that I think that Martin Jones can hold it together for the rest of this season and make the Sharks Pacific Division winners for the first time since 2011

2nd place – Calgary Flames

The Flames seem to have a very good 1st line with Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan along with Matthew Tkachuk. I still think they lack the true star power and could be in the running for Mark Stone. They get one more scoring threat they win this division and maybe the cup.

3rd place – Vegas Golden Knights

Cup finalist from the year prior no reason to think they can’t keep their 10 point cushion on 3rd place is in any peril… But you never know with the west. They could look to bolster both their defensive and offensive depth in order to compete with the top 2 teams.

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The Wild, Wild Card

1st Wild Card – Colorado Avalanche

TOUGH times have hit the ‘Avs recently. Unless you’re Anaheim Ducks bad the losing streak has to end eventually.. right? Well in this scenario they figure out how to stop a puck and find their way back to winning. Dropping 7 in a row has pushed them down in the standings for now; but this team is better than missing the playoffs. They will wake up and could be a dark horse for the cup.

2nd Wild Card – Chicago Blackhawks

The ‘Hawks were embarrassed. They played so bad they got a Hall of Fame coach fired. They traded yet another young player they drafted for two players who looked like busts. Their starting goalie is/was on the shelf. They also had a 10 game losing streak on top of that. Since that streak, while not amazing, they have a record of 15-9 along with a 7 game winning streak currently. This team has pulled together and in a time where the ‘Hawks should be in a rebuilding state, the moves to bring in Dylan Strome and the play of backup goaltender Colin Delia puts this veteran team on my list to keep up the play and squeak into the playoffs. It also helps they have Patrick Kane.

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Honorable Mentions

Dallas Stars

The Stars are infamous for their last-minute season collapses  Now the Stars could find play .500 hockey from here on out and make the 2nd Wildcard spot, but with the latest injury to Starter Ben Bishop it’s a tough task to keep up the surge from teams underneath them and I think they break under the pressure

Minnesota Wild

Losing your first line, top penalty killing, do everything center in Mikko Koivu is catastrophic. Especially for a team trying to get into the playoff race and can’t afford to lose. There’s also the problem of their goal-tending situation. Unfortunately Minnesotta does not have a proper backup and will have to ride Dubnyk hard. There’s 23 games left in the season and it may be prudent to add a goalie. The Wild need a goalie to take the pressure off down the stretch.

Vancouver Canucks

Last but not least are the Canucks who are the closest to making the NHL playoff picture while not actually being in a spot right now. This is a team that has punched above their own weight this entire season with Rookie sensation Elias Pettersson leading the way. Their starting goaltender, Jacob Markstrom, and backup Thatcher Demko are both injured and are currently relying on Michael DiPietro who was called up from juniors last week. Risky times for a team so close. Might be better to lose and get a decent draft pick.

stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com